Monday, June 16, 2008

Making and Mending

A long-awaited new sewing machine arrived at my house for my last birthday, and it has opened a floodgate of creativity. While sewing has its usefulness in any domestic arsenal, my love-affair with fabric and design goes back to high school when I would design my own prom dresses and have them tailored by a seamstress who was a family friend. Together we planned my first prom dress, my college wardrobe, my wedding dress, and my daughter's summer clothes. Now that I have my machine, I can figure out how to make such wonderful things myself. As soon as I get down sewing in a straight line.

Making things, whether it's with fabric, yarn, or words, lights my fire. I can work for hours barely noticing the time, happily absorbed in creation. In my pre-momma days all it'd take was a cup of coffee and I could write until the birds started singing and the sky turned blue. Even now, when I know I have to be up with my daughter at seven, I often find myself staying up late to finish a few more rows of knitting, a little more of a sewing project, another paragraph of a story. The half-finished skirt on my kitchen table calls to me even now, well past midnight.

But there is another side to sewing-- and any other creative venture-- that is not so exciting. Skirts rip, shirts lose their buttons, pants wear holes at the seams. Mending these things takes time and concentration and doesn't usually inspire flights of creative passion like making things does. But at the same time, once I drag out my needle and thread and sit down to work, the often simple repetitions of mending hold different possibilities. My mind settles into a meditative state, contemplating the things of the day stitch by stitch. The whole process leaves me with a satisfaction that isn't nearly as flashy as raw creativity but sweet all the same, like chamomile with honey.

And it was while staring down the large pile of damaged clothes awaiting me that I realized the contrast of making and mending extends beyond garments. The same dynamic shows up time and time again in our lives. We fall in love and our entire being is dizzy on the wings of endless possibility. We marry and smile with anticipation at the prospect of forging a new life as one. We discover that a baby is on the way and our souls rejoice at the creation of new life. This is making, in all of its flushed splendor. But lovers quarrel, and grow familiar. Domestic bliss turns out to involve a great deal more dish washing than we initially planned and no matter how many times we make our husbands dinner they are still hungry the next night. The nerve. Even our little bundles of joy quickly reveal that they are one hundred percent human and require constant shepherding. Life seems to hold a great deal of mending, everywhere we turn. How do we keep from growing discouraged?

By remembering, just as with clothes, that a stitch in time really does save nine. The work we pour into our marriages, our homes, and our children may seem repetitive and at times dull but it's these little daily efforts that the things we love most in good repair. A meal, a made bed, a changed diaper....all are stitches that hold together our families. If instead of resenting these routines we allow ourselves to settle into the satisfaction they can bring, we are wise. After all, God knows when we need the sparkler-bright excitement of a new adventure. But he also knows that what we need even more regularly is the chamomile and honey sweetness of a common job done uncommonly every day.

Here's to every woman who is tailoring a home-- may your needles be swift, your thread strong and may your well-mended family praise you in the gates.